Preview: Arsenal v Chelsea

‘Difficult to beat Real Sociedad after Man Utd match’ – Valverde

Arsenal welcome rivals Chelsea to the Emirates Stadium for an eagerly anticipated Premier League clash on Saturday evening.

Premier League
25 September 2016
Kick-off: 00:30 HKT
Venue: Emirates Stadium

Head-to-head summary:
Arsenal 165 62 48 55
Chelsea 165 55 48 62

Previous encounter:

Arsenal 0-1 Chelsea 24/01/16 (Premier League)
Chelsea goalscorer: D. Costa (23′)

Players to watch

Granit Xhaka announced himself to Arsenal fans with two well-taken goals against Nottingham Forest in the 4-0 EFL Cup victory and in the 4-1 win over Hull City last weekend.
The 23-year-old gives Arsene Wenger an extra option in midfield where he has lined up as part of a defensive pair, but his performances thus far have shown him to have an eye for the spectacular as well.

Alexis Sanchez, however, continues to be the main man for the Gunners with his unquenchable thirst for goals, the Chilean having netted four times in just six games this term.

Wenger also recently singled out Alex Iwobi for praise following his impressive showing in the win over Hull, and he may well be pushing for a starting place, while the much-maligned former Arsenal and current Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has also rediscovered some form of late.

Eden Hazard started the season brightly for the Blues, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois issuing a stern warning to his teammates that the Belgian can’t win the league on his own – suggesting the Chelsea players, including Courtois himself, need to improve their performances.

Hazard has netted twice this season, but perhaps the biggest threat for Arsenal on Saturday will be Diego Costa, who has scored five goals in six games this term, having rediscovered his form and desire under Antonio Conte.

Keeping the Blues ticking over in midfield will be last season’s revelation in N’Golo Kante, who for some was the most significant figure in Leicester’s league success. He swapped the East Midlands for London and has continued to dominate teams from his central defensive position.

The boss directing today's training session. #Arsenal #AFCvCFC #COYG

A photo posted by Arsenal Official (@arsenal) on

Team form and manager quotes:

Arsenal, currently in fourth place, are level on 10 points with fifth-placed Chelsea, and come into this match having demolished Forest 4-0 and Hull 4-1 ahead a hard-fought 1-1 draw with Paris Saint Germain.

Chelsea, meanwhile, needed extra-time to come from two goals down to defeat Leicester 4-2 after a narrow 2-1 loss to Liverpool and a 2-2 draw with struggling Swansea, indicating the difficulties Chelsea suffered under Jose Mourinho last season are starting to surface for new manager Antonio Conte as he works with a very similar squad.

Leading up to this encounter Wenger explained his players will need to play with ‘cool heads’ after a frenetic clash last season that ended 2-0 to Chelsea, with Gabriel and Santi Cazorla both getting red cards.

Centre-back Per Mertesacker was then sent off in the reverse fixture, which Chelsea won 1-0.

Wenger said: “How we play will be important but also how we behave.”

When quizzed on how his players would contain Costa, he added that they must be “completely cold-blooded and just focus on the game and not respond. Just try to eliminate his qualities and his game.

“You need to be committed but by respecting the rules of the game. Honestly, for me, it was always just a big game and an important game and the personal rivalry that you suggest existed stronger before was never, in my head, a concern.

“What is always important is it’s a big game. Chelsea in the last 10 years had very, very strong teams. You realise that today as well. Before that period, we were always beating them, after they were always the stronger team for a few years.

“Now, it looks like it’s a new era where it’s a bit more balanced again and we feel we are progressing at the moment so we have a good opportunity to grab and to change what I call ‘the inconvenient facts’ of the recent years. I have no personal problem with anybody, I respect everybody in our game.”

Practice makes perfect for @cescf4bregas! ⚽️? #CFC #Chelsea

A video posted by Chelsea FC – Official (@chelseafc) on

Blues boss Antonio Conte, meanwhile, explained the importance of his side raising their game to face Arsenal.

“For sure it’s a big game between two big rivals,” the Italian said. “It’s important to play a good game, we know we face a good team.

“We are working to try to improve and reach a high level. It’s normal when you start work at a new team you need time. “We must work a lot on the defensive aspect because if you want a great championship you mustn’t concede so many goals.”

Captain Cesc Fabregas, saying that “this is a special game for him, he’s playing very well for Chelsea and he’s very focused and concentrated. There is the possibility that he can start tomorrow but I still have one more day to decide my line-up.

Team news:

Arsenal are without Aaron Ramsey (hamstring), Per Mertesacker (knee), Danny Welbeck (knee), and Carl Jenkinson (ACL knee), but Olivier Giroud, who recently injured a toe, is expected to be fit for selection.

Chelsea have just John Terry sidelined, with David Luiz expected to continue at centre-back after replacing the Englishman following his injury against Liverpool. Marco van Ginkel remains sidelined with a knee injury alongside Kurt Zouma.